Manslaughter is an incredibly serious charge in the state of New Jersey. Defendants convicted of manslaughter face grueling trials and lengthy prison sentences. If you are facing such a charge, you may be feeling very scared, alone, and overwhelmed. The trial and sentencing processes are long and complex, and the average person is not equipped to handle their case alone.
Anyone charged with manslaughter in Atlantic City should hire a qualified attorney to assist them throughout their case. Our attorneys can help with your charges and work to get them dropped and dismissed, or we can fight your case at trial. You can contact Atlantic City manslaughter defense attorneys in Atlantic City at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.
The Definition of Manslaughter in Atlantic City
Under New Jersey law, manslaughter is the killing of another person as the result of dangerous and reckless behavior. Manslaughter does not require the intent to kill the victim, but instead may occur accidentally. For example, the defendant might not mean to kill the victim, but their reckless actions cause the victim’s death. A common example of manslaughter is a car accident case in which the defendant’s reckless driving causes the death of another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian. The defendant does not necessarily have the intent to hurt anyone, but they are still responsible for the death.
Manslaughter may also occur if the killing happens in the heat of passion or as the result of reasonable provocation. A classic case of a killing in the heat of passion is when the defendant becomes so enraged that they kill the victim without thinking. If a husband were to walk in on his wife having an affair with another man, he might become so enraged that he shoots and kills his wife or the other man. The husband may argue that he did not mean to kill anyone, but only did so in the heat of passion.
Provocation is somewhat similar. It happens when the victim does something to purposefully anger the defendant. The defendant becomes so angry that they kill the victim. The defendant did not necessarily want or intend to kill anyone but felt compelled to do so by the actions of the victim. Provocation can be difficult to prove because it typically requires more than harsh words or mere name-calling from the victim and must be something that would provoke a reasonable person.
When Manslaughter Becomes Aggravated Manslaughter
Manslaughter may be upgraded to the more serious charge of aggravated manslaughter if the reckless behavior that caused the victim’s death demonstrated an “extreme indifference to human life.” This means the defendant’s behavior was so dangerous and reckless that they likely knew, or should have known, that their actions could cause harm or death to another person. Reckless indifference to human life involves conduct the courts deem so bad that a reasonable person would not have behaved in such a way.
Aggravated manslaughter may also occur when the defendant kills someone while fleeing or attempting to evade law enforcement. A driver who accidentally strikes and kills a pedestrian while fleeing the police in a car chase would likely be charged with aggravated manslaughter. Much like in an ordinary manslaughter case, the defendant did not necessarily intend to kill the victim. However, the charges are upgraded because the defendant was fleeing law enforcement after having committed another crime.
These crimes may appear somewhat similar, but they are treated very differently by the courts. While manslaughter is a second-degree crime, aggravated manslaughter is a first-degree crime and carries a harsher prison sentence. A conviction of manslaughter may put a defendant in prison for a few years. A conviction of aggravated manslaughter, on the other hand, may put a defendant in prison for decades.
The Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder in Atlantic City
Manslaughter may sound a lot like murder, but they are treated very differently. Murder is the more serious crime as it requires intent to kill. When a killing occurs because the defendant intended to cause the victim’s death, they have committed a murder. Manslaughter is more akin to an accidental death, instead.
The key difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. To be charged with murder, you must have had the intent to end the victim’s life, and you must have acted with the knowledge and purpose that you would kill the victim. For manslaughter, you do not have to have the intent to kill the victim, but your behavior or actions that caused the victim’s death were so reckless that you must be held responsible.
Penalties for Manslaughter in Atlantic City
Even though the situations surrounding many manslaughter cases involve accidents in which the defendant did not mean to kill anyone, the penalties for these crimes are very serious. Remember, you may not have meant to hurt anyone, and you may not even believe that you are responsible for what happened, but the police and prosecutors want to hold someone responsible, and you need the help of an experienced Atlantic City manslaughter defense lawyer to help protect your rights.
Manslaughter defendants face anywhere from five to ten years in prison. Defendants facing charges of aggravated manslaughter face prison sentences of ten to thirty years. For both crimes, a defendant risks spending anywhere from several years to several decades behind bars. It is crucial that a defendant facing these charges finds help from a qualified attorney.
Using Manslaughter to Defend Against Murder Charges in Atlantic City
When faced with any manslaughter charges in Atlantic City, the best-case scenario for a defendant is to have the charges dropped or dismissed, or to be found not guilty at a trial. Unfortunately, that is not always a realistic outcome. It is not uncommon for a defendant facing charges of manslaughter to first be charged with the more serious crime of murder. Police officers and prosecutors will often charge a defendant with the most serious crime they can and then revise the charges to something less serious as their investigation goes on and more details are uncovered. The prosecutor wants to stick you with the most serious charges they can, so it is up to you and your attorney to try to reduce your charges.
As stated previously, the key difference between murder and manslaughter is the defendant’s intent. A defendant who intended to kill the victim, and did so purposefully and knowingly, cannot have their charges reduced to manslaughter. To defend yourself against a murder charge, you can demonstrate that you lacked the necessary intent to kill or were provoked into committing the crime. This may compel prosecutors or a jury to reduce your charge to manslaughter. A reduced charge will mean a lighter sentence, and it might also allow for better plea bargain options.
Call Our Atlantic City Manslaughter Defense Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
When facing charges of manslaughter in New Jersey, you might be asking yourself what your best options are. The answer to that question will be different for everyone. For some, their best option to fight their charges at trial and hope for a verdict of not guilty. For others, their best bet might simply be to avoid a long and arduous trial by pleading guilty in exchange for a plea bargain. To figure out what is best for you and your case, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to handle manslaughter cases. You can contact an Atlantic City manslaughter defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 and schedule a free consultation today.